Our 2015 Winners2017-10-15T15:23:58+00:00

Our 2015 Winners

Here are our 2015 Winners. Each of their stories are unique and a tribute to their determination to come through.

Laura Carter
Nidderdale High – Wheelchair Basketball

Born with Spina Bifida, Laura has been in a wheelchair all her life, but she has never let that define her. She has consistently pushed the boundaries through sport and is inspired by Hannah Cockcroft and David Weir

Laura competes in wheelchair athletics and has medaled in numerous events. She is also a competitive basketball player and plays for Leeds Spiders Black Widows in the British Wheelchair Basketball National League. Having now left Nidderdale High, she starts her new Art & Design course at Harrogate College in September.

Andrew Cartwright
St John Fisher – Karate

When Andrew took up Karate at the age of six, he had no idea that ten years later his hobby would provide a rock to hang onto when his Dad was seriously injured. His family’s life shattered, it was Andrew’s calm support which pulled his mum and sister through. And now Dad’s back home, its Andrew’s consistent up-beat approach that has been the beacon for his family.

Having achieved Master grade with a 4th Black Dan, Andrew knows that it was Karate that provided the discipline and emotional strength when he needed it most. His family’s survival is a testament to his tenacity.

Jakob Chawla
Harrogate Grammar – Rugby

When 15 year old Jakob’s dad suddenly passed away last year, it was a shattering blow to a young man at a critical time of his life. There are few places to hide when you are 6ft tall and he struggled to control his anger and the emotions that were tearing him apart inside.

He found his solace in the sports arena and urged by staff at Harrogate Grammar to switch from football to Rugby he discovered the perfect platform to build a brighter future. Buoyed by his success on the pitch, for both the school and Harrogate, he’d at last found a vehicle to channel his emotions in a positive way. Rugby has also given him a brilliant new set of friends and the support that only those who have played the oval ball game understand

Joseph Fearnley
Nidderdale High – Hockey

Joe still remembers wearing the twin hearing aids at Primary school, so the understanding and support he offers his hyperactive youngest brother who struggles with autistic traits comes from a deep seated empathy. Joe knows what it’s like when the world hasn’t given you an easy ride.

Now 14 and playing Hockey for Harrogate and North Yorkshire, Joe consistently makes time for others and has taken a leading role in organising a Paralympic festival for Special Needs students at Nidderdale High. As House Captain and Sports ambassador he’s a shining light for fortitude and consistently preaches the importance of never giving up.

Holly Fiddes
St John Fisher – Gymnastics

For Holly every day is a challenge, not physically but dealing with relationships, ADHD and the challenges of learning. Her salvation is Gymnastics, the sport that she started as a four year old, tumbling around on the carpet, throwing her body into a world where she could decide how far she pushed herself.

Ten years later there is no doubt about how far she has come. No doubt also about the pleasure it gives her and the staff at St John Fishers who have worked with her. It’s also given her a platform for relationships, that critical element so important to the life that she’s beginning to grow. Keep smiling Holly, we are all with you.

Stephanie Jenkinson
St Aidan’s – Netball

Down’s Syndrome can impact many aspects of your life but 17 year old Steffi uses Netball to keep her on track and out front. She is ‘Goal Shooter’ for the school team and her exceptional technique has scored many points and won numerous matches. That’s thanks to the hours that she spends training and the support she gets from SEN staff at St Aidan’s.

When she isn’t playing herself, Steffi is a keen cheerleader for the other school teams particularly when St. Aidan’s play Ashville, her sister’s school. Her confidence has bloomed though sport and she consistently encourages others to follow her lead.

James Knight
Public Nomination – Basketball

When you’re 14 and 6ft 7in tall, life can be difficult. Add Asperger’s Syndrome – you can’t recognise facial clues and struggle with relationships – and every day is a challenge.

Bullied since Primary School, James at last found an arena where he could use his height and emotional traits to his advantage – the basketball court. He is now one of the most prized players in the Under 14’s National League and won St Aidan’s awards for the Most Valuable and Most Intimidating player. Already training at regional level his ambitions have crystallised – a career as a professional basketball player is now in his sights. At 6ft 7in at 14 it’s definitely within his reach.

Will Lake
King James – Swimming

In 2012 Will represented the GB Down Syndrome team and won two gold and two bronze medals at the International Swimming Championships. Two years later at the World Championships in Mexico, Will won gold, 2 silvers and a bronze. He is now training for the European Championships in Italy in November.

His swimming has defined his success and despite communication challenges it’s given him the confidence to fly through his school years at King James where he is now in the 6th form. He is an incredibly confident young man, popular with his school friends, team mates at GB and Richard Heselton’s Hot Shots at Harrogate Hydro.

Harrogate Grammar – Netball

Dismissing her major back surgery as nothing more than a glitch on her teenage journey, 15 year old Jessica is an inspirational Netball player who in April powered her Harrogate Grammar team to victory in the 2015 International Junior Netball Tournament in Paris.

The operation to correct ‘Scoliosis’ a double bend in her spine, left Jessica in severe pain and given a doctor’s note to leave sport alone for a year, she should never have been on the court. But a choice between the library and PE was a no-brainer to Jessica and her determination to play the game she loved was given the ultimate reward with an end of season last minute winning goal in the final.

Elliott Marks
Pannal Cricket Club – Cricket, Table Tennis, Football

18 year old Elliott is our oldest Adversity Award winner and we are delighted to have caught him in time!

As a disabled athlete he was captain of the Under 16’s Yorkshire and North East Cerebral Palsy football team and only just missed being selected for the GB Paralympic Table Tennis team. On a broader platform Elliot has never allowed his condition to define him – he has played in the Harrogate Table Tennis League for the last five years and is an accomplished cricketer – batting, bowling and catching one handed for Pannal Cricket Club. And for Pannal it doesn’t stop there, as a role model for younger players he consistently contributes as coach, leader and umpire.

Update July 2015: Fanatastic news, Elliot has been selected to play for Yorkshire Cerebral Palsy Cricket Team

Monty Merchie
Ripon Grammar – Swimming, Cycling

Born with a Fibrous Dysplasia, 16 year old Monty has had over 25 operations on his left leg and dependent on crutches for 11 years. The objective has always been to save Monty’s leg but infections constantly kicked in and last year and he took the brave decision to have his left leg amputated below the knee.

His typical determined approach has powered through this setback and he’s used it as a springboard to greater things. Days after receiving his new prosthetic he was on his bike and as a member of Richard Heselton’s Hot Squad his swimming has improved rapidly. A great source of inspiration to his fellow pupils at Ripon Grammar, he literally can’t wait for the future.

Will Oakley
Public Nomination – Gym, Walking

Before Will got to primary school, he’d experienced his dad suffer life threatening injuries from a car accident and watched his parents split up. After years of multiple operations, his father Mike is rediscovering his life and his metamorphosis has been has mirrored with Will’s own dramatic journey.

Never one to embrace sport, Will struggled with weight and diet through his early teenage years. But two years ago his life took on a new meaning and his commitment to exercise both in the gym and on the road plus healthy eating has transformed his life. He now trains regularly, and his mission to health and fitness is absolute proof that you don’t need to excel in a particular sport, you just need to be determined.

Tom Oates
St Aidan’s – Cycling

Tom Oates has used athletics, road cycling and walking to overcome the challenges he’s faced from Bardet-Beidl syndrome. Factor in partial sight, impaired speech, the delayed development of motor skills plus the burden of abnormal weight gain and you have some idea of the struggles that he has overcome.

A regular gym user, Tom has also completed the 225 mile coast to coast cycle route for charity plus numerous other fund-raising events including the Park Run. He is absolutely passionate about sport and understands the vital role it takes in keeping him healthy. A permanent inspiration to his friends and colleagues his determination would make anyone wish to go the extra mile.

Katie Oates
Public Nomination – Swimming

Sister of Tom, Katie’s story has a deeper twist. In addition to failing eyesight and battling with the extra weight that’s packaged with Bardet-Beidl syndrome, she’s also had to deal with renal failure. In May she had a kidney transplant, which was great news but unfortunately due to the risk of infection she cannot be with us here tonight.

Katie loves to cycle on a tandem with mum Emma, and plays football for St Aidan’s but her real passion is swimming – as she says ‘it just releases all the other stuff’ she has to deal with. By swimming we don’t mean a few strokes in the local pool, when her best friend India was diagnosed with Lymphoma cancer, Katie swam the Great North Swim raising £1200 for India’s charity. A year later with India recovered, Katie and India swam it again together raising thousands for the Bardet-Beidl.

Tom Rees
Gambaru Fitness – All Sports

Tom Rees was 17 and lived for sport when an unexplained heart condition changed his life – without warning his pulse would suddenly race to a life threatening 400 beats a minute. The months of medical treatment and bed rest took a massive toll on his condition and confidence, with his weight dropping to under 8 stone, a shadow of his former self

Although medical staff could still not define the cause they allowed Tom to take up sport again in March 2015. Now put yourself in his shoes, and ask what self-belief was needed for him to risk it all and start over. But weak and vulnerable he did exactly that and three months later – despite nagging doubts – he’s powered back to full fitness and looking forward to the future.

Jamie Smart
Rossett – Boxing

Sixteen year old Jamie Smart has struggled with a difficult background and his anger has frequently caused problems inside and outside school. In the last year however spurred on by his brother PJ an inspirational local boxer, Jamie has followed him into the ring and is now using boxing to turn his life around.

With the support of his family, the school and Harrogate Boxing Club he’s made tremendous progress not just in his sport but the way that it has impacted his attitude and overall achievement. We all love the Rocky movies but this is real life, and in May he had his first competitive fight. Jamie is a tremendous example of how sport can build self-respect and kick-start a new future.

Jasmine Swaine
Harrogate High – Football, Althletics, Swimming, Trampolining

Struggling to deal with the loss of her Mum after a long illness, Jasmine faced the added challenge of special educational needs. She received brilliant support from the SEN team at Harrogate High but it was her total engagement in sport that was the critical factor in her coming to terms with her Mum’s death.

A keen footballer, Jasmine also competes in Athletics, Swimming and Trampolining and takes dance classes every week. She’s a member a multiple after school clubs

Ryan Swaine
Harrogate High – Football, Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Cricket and Tennis

When Ryan lost his Mum after a long battle with illness, it was sport that kept him going. An absolute sports fanatic, Ryan plays Football, Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Cricket and Tennis.

Every lunch-time he’s at the football club at Harrogate High with Mr Wilson, and he’s an avid attender of multiple other after school clubs.

His enthusiasm is unbounded and thanks to sport, the support of and his family and teachers, he’s come through the toughest years of his young life.

Ryan Swaine
Harrogate High – Football, Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Cricket and Tennis

When Ryan lost his Mum after a long battle with illness, it was sport that kept him going. An absolute sports fanatic, Ryan plays Football, Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Cricket and Tennis.

Every lunch-time he’s at the football club at Harrogate High with Mr Wilson, and he’s an avid attender of multiple other after school clubs.

His enthusiasm is unbounded and thanks to sport, the support of and his family and teachers, he’s come through the toughest years of his young life.

Jenny Unwin
Ripon Grammar – Swimming

Most people look back on Yorkshire’s Grand Départ as a highlight in their lives, but for 16 year old Jenny it was the day she was knocked off her bike that changed her life forever. A year later, paralysed from the chest down, her incredible reliance and positive approach to life is a beacon to any young person faced with adversity.

From her hospital bed Jenny messaged her PE teacher to say her goal was the 2020 Paralympics and no-one would doubt the drive of the school’s former swimming captain to achieve it. Now training at the Hydro as a member of Richard Heselton’s Hot Squad, she couldn’t be in better hands.

Last August Jenny was back at Ripon Grammar to collect her 7 A*s and 4A’s at GCSE, and having accepted wheelchairs aren’t designed for farmer’s fields, has swapped her goal from Veterinary Medicine to the human kind. Her smile would brighten up any ward or doctor’s surgery; her tenacity would inspire anyone battling with their health.

Charli Vines
King James – Swimming

When 16 year old Charli moved from her special needs school to King James at the end of year 12, many would have been daunted by her daily battle to communicate. But having swam for many years and being a member of the Richard Heselton’s Hot Squad at the Hydro gave Charli the confidence to take on the challenge and also a best friend in fellow swimmer, Will Lake.

Charli swims for Great Britain and has brought incredible pleasure to her family who are committed to following her to increasingly distant venues! Her smile could light up a room and it’s great to have her with us tonight.